8 Things to Know about Celebrating Hanukkah with a Senior

  • Hanukkah is eight days long (or short!)
  • Hanukkah commemorates both a victory and a miracle restoring Jews to free practice of their religion during the Temple Era. It is a joyous holiday filled with family, food, and fun games. It is not especially serious.
  • Traditional Jews light the menorah each night after dark, adding another candle nightly. If your senior lights Shabbat candles each Friday night, she will light the Hanukkah candles first and then Shabbat candles before dark. There are blessings to be said for each. Your senior may need help with lighting candles safely. Always be sure to place a metal or pottery tray under the menorah to catch spills from oil or wax drips. The candles need to remain lit for a half hour only and should not be left burning without a person present.
  • Celebrating with family at a meal with special holiday foods is common. Since many families will not be visiting in person, your senior may need encouragement and more family connection through technology. Calling a different family or friend each night could be a solution.
  • Other ways to avoid the covid holiday doldrums include baking Hanukkah cookies, making potato pancakes (traditional Hanukkah fare), decorating the home with holiday decorations, singing holiday songs together on the phone, and viewing photos of Hanukkahs past. Playing spin the dreidel (a Hanukkah top) is a favorite activity.
  • There are many Hanukkah programs on television and radio that a senior will enjoy. Do your homework so that you will have enough holiday entertainment for so many long dark winter nights.
  • You and your senior can read Hanukkah stories aloud to children and to each other even if you can’t get together in person.
  • Traditionally, parents and grandparents gave children gelt (money) on Hanukkah, hence the preponderance of chocolate coins in the stores during the season. Today many gift presents to family members and service workers.

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